Commissioner Edwards – September 2016
Commissioner Edwards – September 2016
I have been proud to consistently vote for fiscally responsible budgets during my time as a member of the Board of County Commissioners. This year’s proposed $3.6 billion budget is no exception. The Board has held the line on property tax rates; ad valorum tax rates have not increased for 27 years. Meanwhile, Orange County has been able to leverage competitive interest rates as well as maximize efficiency to fund new services and improve existing programs for our residents. The proposed budget adds 79 new positions, or an approximately 1% increase in the size of Orange County’s staffing level. Although our population has grown by 200,000 over the past decade, county staffing levels in 2017 will be smaller than they were in 2007. This month, I would like to give a brief overview of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2016-2017.
Orange County receives revenue through a variety of sources. The primary source of county revenue is property taxes. The taxable value of property within Orange County will increase by an estimated 9% over the next fiscal year, from $448 million in the current year to $485 for the upcoming year. This increase in value is driven by post-recession new construction and primarily funds public safety, health and social programs, public transportation, parks and recreation, and infrastructure improvements.
Another important source of revenue is local option sales tax. This tax funds a variety of services including Mayor Jacobs’ $300 million INVEST In Our Home For Life initiative. This initiative will overhaul county infrastructure and fund $200 million in roadway improvements, $30 million in Fire Rescue infrastructure, $5 million in each commission district for one-time needs, $15 million for pedestrian safety and intersection improvements, $20 million for parks, and $5 million for affordable family housing. The county anticipates $167 million in sales tax collections in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Orange County also collects Tourist Development Tax (TDT), a tax on hotel room and short-term rentals primarily paid by tourists. A record 66 million tourists visited Greater Orlando in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, generating $231 million in TDT funds. Total TDT revenues are expected to increase by 6% in the upcoming year. State statute mandates these funds be used for community venues and tourist advertising; projects funded with TDT include ongoing maintenance and operations at the Orange County Convention Center, construction and renovation at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and Camping World Stadium, and premier events such as the NFL Pro Bowl which will be hosted by Orlando in 2017.
Orange County’s last main revenue source is fuel tax collections. These taxes are used to build and maintain county roadways. Due to state guidelines, this tax can only be levied at a fixed amount per gallon. Although the number of vehicles in Orange County continues to increase due to our growing population, vehicles are becoming more and more fuel efficient. Therefore, fuel tax collections have not been able to keep pace with the county’s transportation needs. Orange County uses sales tax revenue to fill funding gaps left from our gas tax collections.
Orange County will invest heavily in public safety over the next fiscal year. We are increasing the Orange County Sheriff’s Office budget by 4.3% to $217 million. This will allow for the creation of 16 new positions, including 10 new patrol deputies and two new school resource officers. The proposed budget will increase the Fire Rescue budget by 1% to $151 million. Included in the budget are $4 million in INVEST funds for a new fire station on University Boulevard and Lake Twylo Drive to provide coverage for District 5 residents.
Your tax dollars will be spent in several other ways from recreation to transportation. The new budget allocates over $34 million for Orange County Parks and Recreation. These funds will be allocated toward the maintenance and operations of existing parks as well as new facilities coming online. In District 5, work is progressing on the East Orange Sports Complex in Christmas which will provide access to soccer fields for East Orange County residents. Our Public Works Department will receive $99 million for vital services such as roadway construction and maintenance, street signage, new sidewalks, and drainage improvements. Public works receives $82 million in sales tax revenue to supplement limited gas tax funding. Orange County will contribute $45 million to LYNX, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority. LYNX operates 300 busses along 76 routes in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties as well as small portions of Polk and Lake counties. Our contribution to LYNX will increase 9% from the current year. LYNX provides nearly 30 million passenger trips a year.
Orange County works hard each year to live within its fiscal means. The 2015-2016 proposed budget does just that while providing a better level of service to you, the taxpayer. I am proud to work with county staff to ensure you receive the county services you need in a timely manner. As always, if you have any questions about Orange County’s budget or any other county issue, please feel free to contact me or my aides, Edgar Robinson and Liz Roby. We can be reached at 407-836-7350 or by email and email@example.com